Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 4th, 2020

Very cool chess problem

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Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Chess

Award-winniing infographics

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Take a look. For each infographic, right-click and choose “open image in a new tab” so you can magnify it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

Herodotus’s wheel

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Barry Strauss writes in New Criterion:

Herodotus is the historian of freedom. The founder of history as a literary genre, he is one of two Greek geniuses who have set the agenda of Western historiography for twenty-five hundred years. The other, of course, is Thucydides. We tend to think of them as a balancing act: Herodotus is the historian of the Persian Wars, Thucydides the historian of the Peloponnesian War; Herodotus chronicles the rise of Greece, Thucydides its decline; Thucydides is the hard-nosed proto-political scientist, Herodotus the softer, more open-ended proto-anthropologist. In truth, there is nothing soft about Herodotus. He is the chronicler of the habits of the human heart that make freedom worth fighting for and make it possible to defeat despotism. He is equally the connoisseur of human frailty who knows every step of the slippery slope that leads right back to despotism. There is no more important book for students of the Western past to read.

It is not an easy read, however, because Herodotus is also the historian of complexity. The word “history” comes from the Greek historia, “inquiry.” Herodotus states at the outset that his work displays the fruit of his inquiries. They were not few in number. The rise and fall of empires, the chronicles of Babylon, Egypt, Lydia, and Persia; the life of the Greek city-state; the ins and outs of everyday affairs from Italy to India, the will of the gods and the lies told by mortals all march across the five-hundred-odd pages of his great book. The historian’s style is charmingly—and maddeningly—discursive. In one short paragraph, for example, he describes the history of relations between two states including the sealing of a military alliance, an oracle, a past diplomatic mission, the negotiations for the acquisition of gold for a statue of Apollo, and the current location of the statue.

Herodotus seems never to be able to resist an anecdote. Has any historian ever had a better eye for vivid detail? Yet his anecdotes have a point. There is so much laughter and sheer joy in the Histories that it is easy to forget the tragedy. “Human prosperity never remains constant,” says Herodotus. Great states become small and small great, and so he studies both. More important, states are nothing more than the men and women who make them. Herodotus recognizes the terrible complexity of things but he is not a relativist. The gods are just. They want men to live justly and moderately, and so character counts above all. Affairs of state reflect the actions of individuals, so Herodotus constantly weaves back and forth from a cast of thousands to lone actors, and from kings on their thrones to forgotten faces in the crowd of a small city-state.

Herodotus’s inquiries reflect the seriousness of his theme. Rather than simply following his curiosity, he wants to understand what was at stake in the conflict between Greeks and Persians. As he writes at the outset, “May the great and wonderful deeds—some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians—not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other.” He also states particular concern with preservation; he writes, he says, in order “that human events … not fade with time.” Something that he does not state, but which would have been clear to any Greek, was his debt to Homer, the national poet. Like the author of the Iliad, Herodotus sets his story in the clash of East and West. It was an old conflict, antedating the Greco-Persian Wars—and they in turn were not new. By Herodotus’s day those wars had lasted on and off for over a century, far longer than the ten years of the Homeric Trojan War. Yet each war tested a proposition that was instantly recognized: for Homer, glory; for Herodotus, freedom.

Like the subject of the Odyssey, Herodotus was a great traveler. Although he spent much of his life in Athens, he was born and raised in Anatolia (what is today Turkey), and finally settled in a Greek colony in southern Italy. His hometown, Halicarnassus (today Bodrum), was a port peopled by Greeks, Persians, and Carians (an Anatolian people). A tyranny governed the city. According to ancient biographical tradition, Herodotus played a part in an unsuccessful revolution and so was forced into an exile’s life. No doubt, but like Odysseus, Herodotus would probably have been bored at home. He traveled with gusto: through Anatolia and Greece, and to Egypt, Phoenicia, North Africa, Italy, and possibly the Black Sea. To get a sense of the span of his world, consider this: Halicarnassus was later conquered by Alexander the Great, while Thurii, the Italian city where Herodotus spent his last years, was later conquered by Spartacus.

No one should approach the wide world of Herodotus without a guide. Thanks to Robert B. Strassler, the editor of the Landmark Herodotus, we now have as fine a historical introduction to the Histories as we could imagine. This splendid book now takes its place alongside Strassler’s excellent Landmark Thucydides as a monument of accessible scholarship.1

I have been using the Landmark Thucydides (in paperback) in the college classroom for the last decade and my students can attest to its value. The Landmark Herodotus is just as good, if not better. Andrea L. Purvis’s translation is accurate and readable and accompanied by generous notes on every page. The text is bracketed by prefaces, an introduction, a dated outline, and by twenty-one appendices written by classical scholars.

The 127 maps are a dream. The many photographs are gorgeous. The index alone is magnificent, from the sharks off Greece’s Mount Athos to the ostrich-skin shields of the Makai (a North African people), from the self-sacrifice of the Greek youths Cleobis and Biton to the siege of the Assyrian city of Nineveh, from the slaves sent as tribute to the Persian king Darius to the Spartan response to omens—and that is just from the letter s.

The Landmark Herodotus greatly eases the reader’s navigation of the Herodotean sea of details.  . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

I have and have read the Landmark Herodotus and it deserves the highest praise.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Books

Sharpologist shaving brush roundup

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Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 11:34 am

Posted in Shaving

Avoid refined and highly processed foods

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From an article in Medium by Dana Smith:

In one recent study published in the journal PLoS One, people who changed their diets for three weeks to follow a modified Mediterranean diet centered on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts were able to improve their depression scores.

The researchers, from Macquarie University in Australia, write that a reduction in processed foods as a result of the diet change contributed the most to the improvement in symptoms. Exactly how diet influences people’s mood is unclear, but one theory is that processed foods cause inflammation in the body, which also affects the brain. Another possibility is that diet’s influence on the gut microbiome results in changes to the brain.

I have avoided refined food for a long time now, and after also eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs I feel even better. (I also of late have avoided alcohol — a refined food if there ever was one.)

My cooking routine makes it easy: I keep in the fridge a batch of cooked beans and a batch of cooked intact whole grain (currently brown lentils and kamut respectively), and periodically I cook a stew of fresh vegetables and greens. I have beans and grain at each meal, along with greens and vegetables, and I also eat three pieces of fruit and a bowl of berries each day. I’m just back from the supermarket and I got apples, mandarin oranges, plumcots, and bananas. I get a large (4-lb) box of frozen mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries) and thaw a bowl each evening for a treat. I also eat at least 1/4 cup of walnuts a day, and generally a small handful of roasted redskin peanuts (no salt — I avoid salt). I grind a tablespoon of flaxseed and include that with breakfast.

This has all become very easy — easy to cook and, since I have the fridge well-stocked with cooked food, easy to prepare a meal.

Today I’m branching out a bit, making a dish derived from a recipe from the Washington Post that looks good: “Beat the heat with this quick-cooking skillet of garlicky beans, broccoli and pesto.”

I’ve modified their recipe a fair amount. What follows describes what I did and reflects some lessons learned in the process.

For the pesto-like sauce

This is double the original recipe, so I could have sauce left over for other uses.

• 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves – don’t press down too hard, but pack with some firmness
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
• 1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds or toasted unsalted sunflower seeds or roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds
• juice of 1 lemon (save zest for the broccoli dish below)
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped [not more, and if cloves are large, just one – since the garlic is raw, it tastes sharp in the sauce]
• 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (taste: use more for more flavor)

Put all ingredients in a food processor (I use a 3-cup Kitchenaid) and process until well mixed. If sauce is too thick, add 1 tablespoon water and process more. Continue adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you get the consistency you want.

You can use a blender instead: put everything into the blender and blend until smooth. If you have an immersion blender with the beaker that usually comes with one, you can use that, but then I would halve the above recipe.

For the broccoli and beans

• Florets from 1 head broccoli
• Boiling water [a cinch since I have an electric kettle – LG]
• 1.5 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
• 2 15-ounce cans no-salt-added organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup cooked intact whole grain wheat or rye [I’m using kamut (khorosan wheat) – LG]
• 12-15 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1 small zucchini (4 ounces), coarsely grated
• 1-3 tablespoons creamy cashew sauce
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (from the lemon used in the pesto)
• 1-2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper,
• Good optional addition 1/2 – 1 cup pitted kalamata olives

I went with chickpeas since (a) I have them on hand and (b) store had no lima beans (which are not al that nutritious anyway).

Cut the broccoli into small, bite-size pieces (the smaller, the better). Put the broccoli into a saucepan (3-qt is a good size) and cover with the boiling water to blanch the broccoli. Let stand until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes, then drain. (A saucepan has a handle, so it’s easy to pick it up and dump the contents into a sieve or colander.)

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it softens, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broccoli, chickpeas, kamut, and tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in half the pesto from the recipe above, along with the zucchini, creamy cashew sauce, zest, and pepper, and (optionally) the kalamata olives. Serve warm.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 9:17 am

Omega 20102 boar brush with Colonia and the Maggard V2OC

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Until I finally grasped the excellence of the Omega Pro 48 (10048), I generally recommend this Omega 20102, another very nice brush with a handle that strikes me as better (in terms of aesthetics). However, the loft of the 20102 is not quite so long as the Pro 48’s, so I realize now that some of the gentle springy resilience is lacking when I used the 20102 this morning. (The comments to yesterday’s shaving post include some insights on accepting and thus appreciating experience.)

Still, it was quite a good shave, thanks in part to the Maggard V2 open-comb, here mounted on one of Maggard’s handles. This is the same head as the Parker 24 or 26 but the Maggard handle is better. Colonia shaving soap makes a very nice lather, and the 20102 does indeed do a good job.

Three passes, smooth face, and a good splash of Floïd aftershave: ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2020 at 7:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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